Home > The Final Word > The end of Australian football (soccer)?

The end of Australian football (soccer)?

Despite glowing reports from many within the Australian football community, there is growing speculation from the ever cynical media that the game in Australia is a lost cause. The ‘humiliation’ that was the World Cup Bid, tagged with the dwindling A-League crowds and now the failure of the Sydney Rovers, even before it started, leaves much to be desired from Australian officials.

With so many people death riding the World Game Down Under, the question has to be asked… is it really dead?

Honestly, I can’t say that it is. The media has been cynical about the sport in Australia forever, and will continue to be in the future. Sure, you can class the current time as a low point, but some minor tweaks, and football can continue to grow and prosper in this great land. I’ll just quickly remind people of a few things about football in this country, and why we shouldn’t death ride it.

1. The Success of the Socceroos – Although experiencing a slightly disappointing World Cup in South Africa, this side has come along in leaps and bounds from the Frank Farina days, where we missed the Confederations Cup after a loss to New Zealand. You listen to Australian footballers all over the globe, and they genuinely want to represent their country, they take pride in the jersey and the history and traditions it represents. This was most certainly not the case 10 years ago! We’re currently ranked 20th in the world, higher than France, USA, and the Czech Republic, and the initial impressions under new manager Holger Osieck are that things will only get better. We’re now a genuine heavyweight in Asia, and boast the Asian Player of the Year, and one of the form midfielders in the EPL. Even crowd attendances for nothing games against Asian minnows are up, something which can be put down to both inherent patriotism in Australian sport, and and entertaining and skillful Aussie side. Think back to the days of Grahame Arnold, Robbie Slater etc on the national scale. Nothing against their contribution to Australian football, it cannot be measured, nor should it, but honestly, how many kids would grow up wishing to be the next Robbie Slater? But every young kid in the country wants to  be the next Tim Cahill, the next Harry Kewell, the next Mark Schwarzer.

2. Australian football has been (supposedly) dead before. Remember back to 1997. This may be hard for some, including myself, only being 6 at the time. But still, any football fan remembers THAT day in September 1997, when we were there…the wait was finally over, our golden generation of footballers were going to France 1998….we were up 2-0 at home, there is now way we’re losing this….then it happened. Then again in Montevideo in 2001. I grew up playing football my whole life, loving the game, supporting my wonderful Leicester City in the EPL, but never did it dawn on me that Australia could ever really compete internationally. We were never going to make a World Cup, that’s just the way it was. We had to suffer the indignity of watching Scotland and Tunisia compete, and laugh as England choke at each World Cup, yet never the pride of Australia fighting and punching above their weight as only Aussies can. Why was it that this is the only world sport in which we couldn’t really compete? That was until Frank Lowy put his foot down in 2005 and said no more. He sacked Farina, and hired Guss Hiddink. They launched the A League, with Dwight Yorke the headline act, and once again we were met with Uruguay. I still remember watching that second leg from home, having had to knock back the opportunity of attending due to school exams the next day. Bresciano put us up, and was watched in anticipation as the minutes flowed on. Penalties came and went (by this time I’m ashamed to admit I was asleep in front of the television). Schwarzer saved, twice, and then Aloisi scored. I woke up the next morning, cynically anticipating Australia being ripped off somehow, only to experience the greatest of national pride as I see Mark Beretta dancing around like a kid on Sunrise as they replay the Aloisi penalty over and over. Even though I know what happens, it still excites me to watch. On to the 2006 World Cup. Most Australians were happy enough to be there, but somewhere inside everyone, you thought “How good would it be if…….we got a draw, we won a game, we got through.” They surpassed all expectations. Sitting up to watch the first game against Japan, and sitting through the first 83 minutes, it dawned on most Australians that maybe it was just enough to be there. Then Timmy Cahill stepped up. It still sends chills through my body watching as “keeper comes, hasn’t got there, Harry Kewell, AND THEN POKED HOME BY TIM CAHILL! AUSTRALIA HAVE DONE IT!” The voice of Simon Hill still resonates, as Cahill puts another in and then Aloisi seals the deal. From that point on, nothing else mattered in my opinion. The fact that we got through to the second round, then were gut-wrenchingly pushed out by eventual champions Italy showed how much we had progressed as a footballing nation. We may be down and out now, but we’ve fought back before, and we’ll fight back again.

3. The Success of the Domestic Game. Finally, and probably most controversially, the domestic game. Some will say that this is failing, and in some respects it is, but there are too many positives to ignore. Anyone who disagrees with me, go and watch the final of the last NSL competition back in 2004, then compare that to the Melbourne Derby a couple of weeks ago. We’ve come so far! Since the start of the A League, there have been enough talented players who have come out of the league to show its strength. David Carney’s career was resurrected, Tommy Oar’s born, and Jason Culina’s blossomed. Robbie Fowler and Dwight Yorke have both increased the profile, whilst fringe Socceroos sporadically return in hope of the same fate. Then we have Adelaide United, whose Asian Champions League run showed that if we play in the Australian way, we can be successful against any opposition. Aurelio Vidmar doesn’t get the credit he deserves in my opinion for that run, and he showed any foreign coach that if we play the way we’re supposed to, we will succeed. Joyfully, Osieck seems to have seen this, and the resulting football from the Socceroos, albeit over only a few months, have been extremely encouraging.

So in short: No, Australian football is not dead. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and Australia will prosper in the future.

Thats all from me, Matt.

Next week, I will outline the minor tweaks which I believe will help the success of the game in Australia.

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